Hwimunjung Lee, who wants the “beauty of Yujong

This interview was conducted on March 7 and published in the April 2023 issue of Basket Korea Webzine. (Link to purchase Basket Korea Webzine)

Hwamunjung has had good results in the past few years. However, due to the graduation of their main players, they are considered to be weaker this time around. “Outsiders say that our strength is weaker,” admitted Hwimunjoong ace Lee Seung-jun. However, he added, “We are using this as motivation to work harder. We want to do better than the outside world expects,” he said. To that end, they are still sweating it out in the gym today.

When did you start playing basketball?
I’ve had a basketball since I was very young, probably before kindergarten, but from then until the lower grades of elementary school, it was just playing with the ball. My brother and I played with the ball every day, so I only knew how to shoot and dribble.

When did you start playing basketball?
When I was in the third grade, I went to SK Youth Basketball Club. I chose SK Youth Club because it was close to my house, and then I went to Samsung Youth Club to start playing basketball more seriously.

What was it like at Samsung Youth Club?
I think my friends at Samsung were more into basketball than my friends at SK, and I think they were more focused on studying and playing basketball.

When did you start competing?
I started competing in tournaments when I was in third grade. I went to a tournament in Inje with my peers and got a lot of opportunities. I lost in the quarterfinals, but I felt a lot of things. I thought I was good at basketball, but there were a lot of kids who were good at basketball.(laughs)
I think that’s why I worked harder from then on, and I think we really hit our stride in our senior year, especially when we won the KBL youth weekend league.

How did you perform after that?
We did well in fifth grade, and then in sixth grade we didn’t have as many competitions due to COVID-19, and our team wasn’t as strong as it used to be.

When did you start playing elite basketball?
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do until sixth grade, and I was still thinking about it, and then I decided in my freshman year of middle school, and that’s when I started playing elite basketball.

On a different note, do you have any friends that you’ve been playing with since your youth club days?
(Lee) Hyun-hoo and I have been 안전놀이터 playing together since we were in the Samsung Club. When we were playing club basketball, he was responsible for most of the scoring, and I did a lot of the rest. (Laughs) We got along well then, and we get along really well now.

Was there a particular reason you chose to enroll at Fumunzu?
It was just because it was close to home, and my coach told me, “If you come here, we’ll give you a lot of opportunities,” so I didn’t hesitate.

What were your first impressions of elite basketball?
It was hard at first, playing basketball in a new environment, and it was really physically demanding, but over time I got used to it.

What was the biggest difference between playing elite basketball and club basketball?
In club basketball, I focused on the basics, especially offense, but in elite basketball, I spent a lot of time working on defense. My coach emphasized defense a lot, and I think I play more defense now than I used to.

Did you have many teammates?
There were five of us, and most of us came from club basketball because there is no affiliated elementary school, so I think that’s why we got along so well.

How did you do in first grade?
My older brothers were very good, so we won almost everything my freshman year. They were very good, so I think that’s when we started to think, “Can we win like that next year?” My teammates were very determined.

So how do you feel about it now?
Actually, I don’t think so yet (laughs), but I still have time, so I’m going to work harder. As time goes by, I want to do better and better, and most of all, I want to do better than the outside world expects.

How was your sophomore year?
My sophomore year wasn’t as good as my freshman year, but I still managed to get two runner-up finishes. I had four older brothers, but one of them was injured, so we were given a chance. I learned a lot from playing with them, and I think I grew with the experience. In a way, I think that was a turning point in my basketball life. (Laughs)

How did you spend this winter training?
We did physical training as usual, and we also went on a training camp. There was an evaluation that our strength was weak this time, so we used that as motivation to work harder. I think we became a better team through training camps and physical training.

What are your goals?
As a team, we just want to go high (laughs), and if we win, that’s even better. As an individual, I want to work hard and finish my middle school career well so that I don’t have any regrets.

Finally, please describe your style of basketball.
I’m a point guard, and I have an advantage in 2-on-2s, because I can create chances through 2-on-2s. My scoring is still not good enough, but I try to create chances for my friends, and I think that’s my best advantage. I try to play creatively!